More patients are using private health insurance in hospitals

Richard Laycock 17 May 2017 NEWS

Empty hospital room

Private health insurance funded admissions rise by 5.5%.

As admissions steadily rise for those being treated in both private and public hospitals, those choosing to fund their admission with private health insurance is also increasing, according to a new report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The AIHW report, Admitted patient care 2015–16: Australian hospital statistics, found that of the roughly 10.6 million Australians admitted into hospitals in 2015-16, those choosing to fund their admission using private health insurance increased by almost double the rate of those being admitted as public patients.

"In the five years to 2015–16, admissions for public patients rose by an average of 2.9% each year, compared with 5.5% for patients who used private health insurance to fund their admission," said AIHW spokesperson George Bodilsen.

The report found that admissions in both private and public hospitals over the last five years grew by a roughly combined average of 3.5% per year.

"Growth in private hospital admissions was slightly ahead of public hospital admissions, up by 3.7% and 3.3% on average yearly, respectively," Bodilsen said.

Roughly 59% of the 10.6 million annual admissions were in public hospitals.

"In public hospitals in 2015–16, 83% of admissions—or 5.2 million—were for public patients, with around 14% of patients – or 872,000 – using their private health insurance to fund all or part of their admission," Bodilsen said.

The report also found that the median waiting time for public patients (42 days) undergoing elective surgery was more than double that of those who funded all or part of their admission using private health insurance (20 days).

The AIHW report comes a week after the Surgical Variance Report 2017, a joint project of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and Medibank, found there is a huge variance in the out-of-pocket costs for eight common treatments in Australia.

Another recent study, the International Federation of Health Plans Comparative Price Report, found that private health insurance holders pay through the nose for prosthetic medical treatments in Australia.

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